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5. The index to law on the internet - DIAL Index

Background - AustLII's web index

AustLII's Index to Australian Law on the Net, a conventional hypertext index based around a source/author index approach, was launched in July 1995. The index was maintained periodically until it reached about 500 entries a year later, at which point the maintenance of `hand-tooled' web pages, lack of search capacity, and lack of a subject index became problems which had to be addressed.

AustLII's first internet indexing software (Chain) was then written, and released in October 1996. It provided facilities for editing and maintenance of index entries, and a new user interface with hierarchical browsing, simultaneous source and subject indexing, full searching of index entries using the SINO search engine. `Australian Links' was almost immediately the runner-up in the Australian Society of Indexers inaugural web indexing awards in 1996. Index entries grew to about 1,500 by mid-1997, of which over 1,000 related to Australian law sites. At this point the Chain indexing software required redevelopment to satisfy new demands, including those of Project DIAL. The indexing software was rewritten, with the new software (`Feathers') and interface released for use in July 1997. It includes major changes: the links are maintained as an MSQL database; the editing facilities are far more flexible and provide better support from multiple contributors; customisation of the appearance of particular sets index pages (eg the Project DIAL pages) is possible, so that they can appear in a consistent style with text collections and other resources, but of a different appearance from the rest of the index; and facilities to target a web spider were added.

A `multi- threaded' index - DIAL in the context of the `World ` index

The DIAL Index prototype has been constructed as an integral part of AustLII's index of law on the internet, partly for technical reasons, but also because we are of the view that what we call a `multi-threaded index' is one of the likely options for making such an index sustainable at a reasonable cost. The idea is simply that a number of `stakeholders' collaborate in the construction of a large internet law index, with each stakeholder concentrating on building one part of the index. So, for example, Project DIAL concentrates on the creation of pages of links relating to legislation, and legislation-related resources such as Parliamentary sites and law reform reports. These pages appear in AustLII's index clearly identified or `badged' as `Project DIAL Index' pages, as illustrated in the screen examples below. However, there are many other pages in the index that have been built for other purposes, and these appear identified as general `AustLII Legal Links' pages or `badged' as part of some other specific project (eg on indigenous legal issues).

The front page of AustLII's `World' index - a `multi-threaded' approach

For example, from the front page of AustLII's `World' index, a number of resources are identified as being part of Proejct DIAL, one is the World Courts Index Project, and the others are just parts of AustLII's general (`unbadged') world index. Other project-specific threads are to be added, such as an `Indigenous law' thread as part of the Reconcilaition and Social Justice Library that AustLII is creating as part of its work with the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.

The benefits of this are, first, that the DIAL Index resources are being created within an existing and growing international index to legal materials, where a lot of the hard work in identifying and indexing basic sources of materials has been and is being done for other purposes, and, second, that users of the DIAL Index also obtain the benefit of all the other types of legal indexes (eg to case law or to specialised subject collections) that are being created as part of this large cooperative indexing project.

The challenge is to enable DIAL index users to gain a clear sense of when they are within the specific DIAL resources, and when they have moved out into the broader index, and for there to be ease of navigation between one and the other.

Structure of the DIAL Index

The DIAL Index has five starting points for research: The last three headings are intended for those users who wish to browse the range of resources (from every country, or from a particular country or group of countries) of particular interest to draftspeople, material relating to 'Legislation', 'Law Reform', and 'Parliaments'. The top half of each of those pages lists general resources, and the bottom half will list country-specific resources for each category (best seen from the Legislation page). So a user who approaches the DIAL Index thinking 'I wonder if there is UK legislation available on the web?' 'Can I get Australian Law Reform Commission Reports on the web?' or 'Does the Portuguese Parliament have a web site where I might find material discussing this problem?' will go to those pages.

The end result is intended to be a very extensive set of links and searches on each subject matter, which gives users access to a wide range of comparable legislative resources in many countries.

The opening page of DIAL Index

Searching the index

The index of links can be searched from a search window which appears at the top of each page of the index (see for example in the screen above). Searches result in a display of both all of the index categories that include the search terms, and each specific link in the index that uses the search terms.

Searches can be made using boolean connectors (`and', `or' and `not'), proximity connectors (eg `w/5 for `within 5 words' or `near' for `within 50 words'). Search terms may be truncated with `*' (eg `bankrupt*').

For example, a search over the index for entries relating to `environmen*' (for `environment', `environmental' etc, includes the following in its list of search results:


Regulatory Environment: India - description of industrial; foreign exchange control;

trade; intellectual property; labour; capital market and taxation laws (on India Economic

and Business Overview - Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt Ltd)


Environmental Legislation - Indonesia - list of environmental legislation with selected

full texts (on Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law)



Environmental Legislation - Singapore - list of legislation (on Asia-Pacific Centre for

Environmental Law)


Vietnam law documents (Environmental and other laws) - (on Coomsweb, Australian

National University) (in Vietnamese and English translation)

World:Subject Index:Environment

Asia Pacific Centre for Environmental Law - (Law Faculty, National University of


Database of Environmental Instruments - major collection of global and regional

instruments and national legislation few in full text still under development (on

Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law)

Singapore - Environmental Legislation - list of environmental legislation (on Asia-Pacific

Centre for Environmental Law)

Teaching Environmental Law - under development (on Asia-Pacific Centre for

Environmental Law)

Part of the results of a search of the index for `environmen*'

Each of the underlined items is a link to an index category or a resource elsewhere on the web.

The Legislation pages

The Legislation, Law Reform and Parliament pages all have a similar format. They commence with links to multi-national sources of information, and then provide links to national sources of legislation in alphabetic order of counties.

Part of the Legislation front page is shown below (down to countries beginning with `P' that have legislation on the web). The page is headed by links searching for all legislation references in this index (which may find incidental references to legislation not on the country pages), by a link to DIAL Search (where legislation of various countries may be searched), and by a link to a list of other multi-national legislation resources on the web (eg Project GLIN at the Library of Congress) and (in some cases) to their search facilities.

Each link to a named country goes to the legislation page for that country, which may list multiple locations for legislation from that country, or separate links to search facilities to search that country's legislation, or instructions on how to do such searches (as illustrated below by an extract from the United Kingdom: Legislation page).

Part of the Legislation front page

Part of the United Kingdom legislation page

The Development Law Subjects

The Development Law Subjects

The Development Law Subject pages in the index will be the core of the prototype as it develops further, and where most of the innovative features of DIAL Index are found. However, they are the last stage or layer of development of the system. At present there are five example Development Law Pages under construction in the first stage of the prototype. A list of proposed subject headings is in the Annexures

The Legislation, Law Reform and Parliament front pages and country pages are the sources of the legislative `raw material' from which the Development Law Subject pages are built. Once a legislative, law reform or parliamentary source is located and indexed (and the best ways of searching or browsing it determined), then it is also used to add new links relating to that country or multi-national resource to the Development Law Subject pages.

'Telecommunications' Development Law Subject page

The 'Telecommunications' Development Law Subject page demonstrates both a wide range of statutory materials available from many countries (though there are more to be added), and the variety of access mechanisms that must be used to create maintainable internet law indexes.

The main point of this page is that it allows the user to go directly to available telecommunications legislation from seven countries (Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States), without having to know (i) which countries may have telecommunications laws on the web (for example, the Zambian and Israeli legislative collections do not at present include telecommunications laws) or (ii) the best ways to find the telecommunications laws within those national collections.

The variety of types of links used on this page, and the reason each has been used, is as follows:

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